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Usability Testing for Beginners

It is a clever idea in almost any discipline to have others look over your work with new perspectives, which is true in user experience design. Otherwise, your bias toward your work may distort your perception of it.

Learning from your users is the only way to create the best user experience possible. The success of any design product is in how functional and usable it is for users. That implies that for a user-centric design, product opinion matters a lot. Thus, it is fundamental to conduct usability testing of the product with users before launching the users' product.

Usability testing should be part of the design process because it might be a waste of time and effort if product opinion is not sampled on the design styles and features added to the users. Thus, it is essential for beginners in design to understand usability testing, what it represents, and how to do it.

What is Usability Testing?

Usability testing refers to sampling your products with real people by having them perform a series of tasks while observing and recording their interactions.

The goal of usability testing is to determine whether your design is usable and straightforward enough for users to achieve their objectives. Usability testing allows you to eliminate assumptions and collect accurate data on your product's user experience.

What is the purpose of Usability Testing?

Usability testing enables researchers to identify issues with their product's user experience, determine how to address these issues, and decide whether the products are usable enough.

Research has revealed that only 53% of consumers believe brands do not meet user experience expectations, while 87% of businesses believe they do. This gap emphasizes a common issue when creating new products or updating existing ones. Designers do not always have a realistic impression of their product user experience.

Since developers, designers, and product managers cannot unlearn what they know about the users and sometimes come from backgrounds quite different from their target market, they cannot make a perfect assessment of what they are offering. That is where usability testing comes into play. It exposes your users' to real people in your target market. You will be able to see users' experience with the product and what they think of it.

The usability test assesses a product's user experience through the users' lens.

Types of Usability Testing

User experience researchers and designers have developed several methods for testing a product's usability. The methods range from carrying out lab tests to meeting users in real-time. Though different approaches, these methods all arrive at the common goal of getting users' feedback on product usability. Let us take a quick look at some of these methods.

Usability Testing Methods

Lab/ Moderated-In-Person Usability testing Method

This type of usability test usually happens in a moderated environment or a laboratory setting where professionals can see and analyze the trial for themselves. During a moderated test, professionals guide test participants through tasks, answer questions and respond to feedback in real-time.

When to use Lab Usability Testing Method

Lab testing is a good option. When you need in-depth information on how users interact with the product, you will be able to see the reasons behind their experiences with the product. Yet, running can be expensive because you need access to an environment.

You need to hire participants and a professional who will serve as the moderator. Another problem is that you need up to 5-10 participants for this test, and all of them must be from your customer base, so hiring that number from a single customer base might be taxing.

Guerilla Testing

Guerilla testing is the most straightforward form of usability testing; you only need to randomly ask people about your design prototype. Random people chosen as participants are asked to perform a quick test with the product, sometimes in exchange for a small gift. It is cheap, and you also get fast results.

When to use Guerilla Usability Testing Method

Guerilla testing is most effective in the initial stages of product development. It is useful when you have a tangible design and want to know if you are on the right track. Guerilla testing is also helpful in gathering individual opinions and emotional responses to ideas and concepts.

Unmoderated Remote Usability Testing Method

Unmoderated remote usability testing takes place without a moderator but uses a web-based service to monitor the test and administer survey questions.

There is no need for test facilitators because the software controls the test and records user actions. It provides quick, reliable, and low-cost user testing results usable for further analysis.

Test participants can complete tasks in their environment, on their own devices, without a moderator, resulting in the natural use of the product. Unmoderated testing is less expensive; however, the testing results are less detailed.

When to use the Unmoderated Usability Testing Method

It works primarily for times when you have certain constraints with going out to meet people for testing. This method works best when you have a hypothesis from previous research that needs validation using a large sample.

Contextual Inquiry Method

Contextual inquiry is more of an interview method that assists the designer in gathering information about the user experience from actual users rather than a usability testing method.

Participants are first asked questions about their product experience before being observed and questioned while working in their environments.

This method helps gather detailed information about users, such as their preferences and habits. Having this information at the start of the design process will assist the designer in creating a well-tailored experience.

Phone Interview

As the name implies, it is done remotely via phone. The moderator instructs participants to carry out specific tasks and record their observations and experiences.

When to use the Phone Interview Method

The phone interview method is suitable when the interviewer cannot gather participants in a specific location.

Questions to ask before choosing a Usability Testing Method

There are many testing methods, and you need to ask specific questions before selecting the method.

Can you meet the users physically?

You need to ask if your users are available for a physical meeting. If not, you should consider using a remote testing method.

Do you want to explore what users do or what they say?

This critical question will guide you on which testing method to use. For example, if you rate what users do and how they behave above what they say, you might want to consider a testing method that allows them to complete their tasks so you can have full details of their experience.

Can users talk while performing the task?

Suppose users can talk while performing this task. In that case, it is best to choose a testing method that allows for questions and answers, you are not only able to notice the product user's behavior, but you also get the correct import of their behavior from their explanations.

Is the moderator an expert?

This question is handy if you consider using a moderated testing method. If the moderator is an expert, you can also include a coaching session about the product for the participants, where users can learn the reason for their experiences.

How to carry out Usability Testing

Choose your Testing Method

You can review the testing methods above to determine which one to choose and when to use them.

Search for test Participants

You need to look for a user base representing your ideal audience to get the best results. You do not want to test your product with people who have no business using the product.

For remote tests, there are online testing platforms that give you access to a broad audience where you can select your participants based on varied factors that are coordinated with the purpose of your product.

Ask the Right Questions

You might need to set time aside to brainstorm the questions to ask participants, they must be questions that will inspire them by relating to their experiences, and questions that only leave room for monotonous answers will not give the best results.

Choose your Metrics

The metrics allow you to track the product's success rate with users' experience. Some of the metrics you can consider are Task completion time, task difficulty, and the number of errors each user makes.

Benefits of Usability Testing

Usability Testing is a sure way to create a user-centric product. You move from the realm of assumption to working with real data from product observations, and you can incorporate this into your design process. Usability Testing has lots of benefits, some of which are discussed below.

You can get feedback before launching your product.

Feedback is mostly used after products have been launched to improve the following product or make a product upgrade. However, with usability testing, you have insights into how users will respond to your product before launching. This timely feedback saves you many things, and you can launch the product well prepared.

You save time on the development process.

The result from your user test will highlight your priority, giving you clear goals on what to focus on and what to avoid; thus, you can complete the product on time since you know your priorities.

Good User Experience

Testing your product before launch enables you to create a good user experience. You know the features to include and better understand how to make the design simple enough for users.

You get innovative ideas for Solving Problems.

The experiences and suggestions of your users during the test can give you innovative ideas for solving a problem or even inspire an idea for a new feature to the product.

Usability is fundamental in design. The mark of a good designer is his ability to convert product users' frustrations to creating features for solutions in design, this requires tact and skill, and it can be learned, provided you have good tutors to teach you. Therefore, you should sign up for the GoCreate USA Bootcamp and learn all there is to User Experience Design. Sign up here.

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